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Adhan and the Rhythm of a Place

Five times a day a somber murmur echos throughout the city—the Adhan, or call to prayer. Since I first heard it in Saudi Arabia many years ago, it has always reminded me of the low drone of bagpipes. There is something seductive and meditative about it, particularly before sunrise when it mingles easily with a drowsy mind. In Riyadh, the city would fall quiet—traffic would slow to a trickle, the background noises of urban life would cease for a time, then return to pace. When in Istanbul, I only recall it in the early morning, when I would go to the roof of my hotel and watch the birds flock and flutter around the minarets of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and Hagia Sophia, with the Bosporus and Asia beyond. Street-sweepers and shopkeepers would pause under a soon-to-be brightening sky before beginning their day. Here in Kuwait, it simply tells me that there is actually a rhythm to life. Kuwait City is difficult to grasp as an urban environment. There is no obvious center to this place. The ebbs and flows of its citizens are imperceptible, aside from traffic that does not appear to have reason. Routines—jobs, errands, nightlife—seem random. All there is to remind you that others are out there following daily patterns like yourself is the beckoning of the muezzin. And so five times a day I wonder what makes up the soul of this city, what defines existence in this place. 


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